Friday, 18 July 2014

Dartmoor is magic for children of all ages :-)

My deep and abiding love for Dartmoor was born in me as a child and has only got stronger over the (many) years. I was blessed with parents who had enough patience and love of the outdoors to load up our old Bedford Van with my brothers and me, plus assorted friends and other family members and cart us all up to Dartmoor from our home in Paignton.
And oh what fun then ensued! My dad was never one for shortcuts to camping and eating al fresco, we had old fashioned canvas tents, washed in the river, and all food was cooked from scratch over a camp fire. For me, pony mad since I was a toddler, the highlight was always finding and watching the beautiful Dartmoor Ponies. Over fifty years later, nothing has changed, my favourite moments are still spent amongst the ponies, losing all track of time as that old enchantment washes through me.

So now, when my own grandson came to visit me on Dartmoor with his parents last weekend, from his home in Finland, it was with joy and excitement that I led him on walks to discover for himself the magic of Dartmoor.

 We started close to home, there's something about small boys, a pond, a stick, a dog or two and complete freedom! In his element he discovered goldfish, dragon flies, frogs and a band of Dartmoor Mares and foals, all around the perimeter of a gloriously muddy edged pond.

We graduated to walks up the steep side of Cosdon Beacon, collecting "Dinosaur bones" and running through ferns that have grown twice as high as him. Apparently grown ups, and especially granny who is recovering from a knee replacement, are a bit slow for an energetic five year old, so he took to following in the dogs footsteps instead. Oh to have that energy!

Sunday saw us exploring the base of Belstone Tor and the Nine Maidens stone circle on the far side of Watchet Hill. Sitting on a handy granite boulder watching him run with the dogs as fast as his legs could carry him down the hill to the brink of flying off his feet, it occurred to me yet again how immensely privileged those of us who either live on or visit Dartmoor are. This extraordinary wilderness over which we are able to roam at will, with its history, stories and legends to fascinate us. I hope we never, ever take it for granted, and that everyone enjoying their time here cares for it well.

As if the weather gods knew this was such a special and magical weekend for me and my family, the sun shone throughout the afternoon for the Belstone Fair. My son and I had the fun of introducing his Finnish wife and their now bi-lingual son to the somewhat eccentric and traditional customs of a Dartmoor village summer fair.
Maypole dancing, coconut shy, egg throwing, egg and spoon races, dog races, men running up and down Cosdon at speed, for fun, and not least of all tea and cakes.
This was indeed a perfect weekend, one I hope young Oli will remember for a long time, and that will have sown the seed in his heart of a life long love and enjoyment of Dartmoor. Just like it happened to his Granny.

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